WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Johnson’s inaugural speech is worrying

02 August, 2019

Prime minister Boris Johnson

• IN a week where record temperatures were set all over western Europe, the new prime minister gave his inaugural speech to the British people in Downing Street.

The shocking thing about this speech was that it did not refer to any action his new government was going to take towards the environmental crises confronting us.

When the history of the of the early 21st century is written, assuming there will be anyone to write it, Britain’s political and trading relationship with its nearest neighbours will not feature.

It will be a story of our successful or failed attempt to reverse the damage inflicted by we humans to our own planet.

And yet prime minister Boris Johnson’s speech was dominated by Brexit to such an extent that no mention was made of what his government proposed to do about global warming, species diversity or air pollution.

Johnson’s speech did obliquely touch on environmental issues. First he maintained that Britain leads the world in battery technology and that the exploitation of this will provide jobs.

In other words, he sees the climate crisis as a profit-making opportunity for his billionaire friends and backers. We sold you a diesel car, now upgrade to electric.

Secondly, and more worryingly, Johnson proposes to “liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules”.

This is one of the clearest statements by Johnson – or any Brexiteer – of the real agenda behind Brexit, namely to unwind the European Union rules on environmental protection and in other areas for the benefit of business interests.

It may even be that Johnson and US president Donald Trump already have some kind of understanding that the EU controls on GM food will be the first to go as part of our trade deal with the USA.

Some political commentators have interpreted Johnson’s speech as the opening salvo in the general election that seems to be unavoidable before the end of the year.

If so it is interesting that Johnson and his advisers believe that the voters have so little interest in protecting the environment that the subject does not merit mention in this scene-setting speech.

If and when this general election takes place it will be up to the public, and young voters in particular, to give Johnson a strong message that in this area, as in so many others, his judgment is suspect and a Trumpian neglect of the environment will not be tolerated.

PAUL ELLIOTT
Islington Green Party

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